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JesseBC
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Doesn't this logic strike you as a bit circular: "just because one does not normally associate "Midsummer" and "Yule" with human sacrifice doesn't mean that there might not have been such goings-on at those times"?

I mean, somebody gets murdered every year on my birthday too, but that doesn't mean they get murdered BECAUSE it's my birthday.

I was just pointing out that, no, the summer and winter solstices weren't among the festivals believed to have been associated with human sacrifice, while others (such as the grain harvest) were.

Not sure what that's got to do with LOTR, but I'm still not very far along in my reading yet, so maybe I'll figure that out as I go along.

I guess I just don't understand the need to answer this religion question with such certainty one way or the other.

Midsummer and Yule are religious holidays. They're still widely celebrated in northern Europe, religiously and as an ingrained part of the culture.

Using them to set the tone or even to create an overarching theme of Light vs. Darkness (a theme of both the solstice traditions and the Catholic catechism, which were both familiar to Tolkien) seem like perfectly reasonable explanations to me.








oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
Good Morning JesseBC ( and Everybody ) ---
While I was writing that other post, I was thinking at the same time that I was making my little "proposition"
( about how JRRT sometimes "appropriates" these Pagan "elements" - at the same time turning them into something more innocent ) - that he was not the only one to ever do something like that - May Day, Easter, a lot of these holidays have been either converted into Christian Holy Days, or been attributed as being various "Saint's Days" - ( but in the case of the latter, such as May Day, retaining more of the Pagan regalia without so much Christain religious symbolism attached - whereas Holidays like Christmas and Easter got all tangled up with paganistic trappings, but still retain more of their religious meaning ( at least, to those are are still "religious" ) - And holidays like May Day had already been turned into simply innocent fun.
However, just because one does not normally associate "Midsummer" and "Yule" with human sacrifice doesn't mean that there might not have been such goings-on at those times - especially in those prehistoric, pre-Roman times, and especially among the Celts, apparently. It looks like they committed these sacrifices at many different opportunities, and for several different reasons - and it was not reserved for only one or two
special occaisons a year. In fact, I was just looking at this ...for the benefit of a whole population" --- mentioned before how it has been thought the Roman "reporters" had tended to exaggerate these violent acts ( by the Celts, the Gauls, the Germanic Tribes ) by way of "propaganda" - to show how much more "civilized" the Romans were compared to these "Barbarians" - However!
It is now coming to light, by way of archaelogical evidence, they were not so far off, afterall ...
And, furthermore, the most important of these "ritualistic" days - or for perhaps even "unscheduled sacrifices" ( especially for the Celts ) it was all tied quite directly to the seasons and the cycles of nature - the harvest, etcetera....
I don't know how much Tolkien was aware of all this, but I feel fairly certain he must have been aware of at least some of this - perhaps ( being the very learned man that he was ) even MOST of what known about these things at the time. ---
Which is why I say he took references , or allusions, to some things that really had a deeply dark and violent history behind them - things that are very "heavy" and turned them into something that feels completely innocent and "light". ---
And I think maybe the reason he does it, as you suggested, is merely to give that "tone" to the stories -
to create a "mood" - and in the case of the hobbits - to emphasize how closely tied to the earth and to nature their "culture" is ( or was )- and how "simple" and "uncomplicated" their lives are - but I don't sense them as
suggesting religiousity in any way ...( well - to my mind, at any rate ) ...
If anyone is interested in seeing that article I mentioned - ( concerning the Celts and Human Sacrifice ) -
I will attempt to reproduce the "link" here ---
http:gallery.sjsu.edu/sacrifice/celt.html



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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Celtic or Nordic inspiration?

We are so far using a rather generalized set of "pagan holidays," festivals, ceremonies here, many of which are Celtic in origin. JRRT professed in some of the Letters to be adverse to using Celtic sources in his writings (though I think he still does!). Maybe a search of some specific Anglo-Saxon religious material might allow us to get closer to the Rohirrim and the Shire culture, especially as both are supposedly modeled on the Saxons? A quick look at Tolkien's adaptation of the old Saxon calendar may point the way? See Appendix D. I imagine we might be able to correlate the Shire days of importance with those of the Anglo-Saxons and get some idea of the types of celebration most likely applicable to the Hobbit culture? JRRT does tell us that Midyear's Day (Overlithe) was a very important Hobbit festival (RotK, p. 384) -- so was there a pagan ceremony of the Anglo-Saxons that might fit in here? In this regard, an understanding of Anglo-Saxon ceremonies during Yule-tide, might also suggest some similarities in celebratory rites for the hobbits. What sort of specific source did JRRT use for the burial ceremonies in Rohan, was this drawn from an Anglo-Saxon archetype?

Time for some more reading...
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

To JesseBC ---
 
What I was trying to say was this:
Just because these "other" holidays were not normally associated with human sacrifice ( from what was the general understanding of these things ) does not necessarily mean that they were NOT associated with human sacrifice during those pagan, pre-Christian, pre-Roman times I was talking about.
I believe these "other" holidays could have been a lot more associated with those kind of rituals than people have realized.
As a case in point - ( if you read that article - I left the correct link to it in my "Addendum" ) ---
A holiday that just passed - May Day ( a perfectly innocent holiday nowadays - although it has long been known to have that history of "Fertility Rites" behind it ) - in the Celtic culture - May Day ( Samhain ) was the Celtic New Year  - and apparently, just about the Number One Holiday ( for the Celts ) and ( quite possibly ) a time for a great deal of that "sacrificing" to be going on.
Inotherwords - yes, people were getting murdered on Samhain - and, yes, they were getting murdered BECAUSE it was Samhain...
My guess is that all of these "holidays" that were so closely tied to the seasons, the sun and the moon, the cycles of nature - there was quite possibly a great deal more of these "goings-on" that what used to be assumed - for instance, that it mainly only happened on days, say like Halloween -
 and that includes "Midsummer" and "Yule" as far as I am concerned.
You see, I know you probably feel like I went off the deep end a little when I started prattling on before -
but I was a little annoyed when what you were saying before sounded to me like:
"Oh - you must be confused - you must be thinking of that OTHER holiday"
No. I WAS thinking about "Midsummer" and "Yule", you see. ---
My point was simply that there is a lot of very deep, dark, gruesome and bloody elements of that Ancient Celtic culture - which gets alluded to in some ways in the stories -
 ( such as in the orcs often getting their heads chopped off ) - but in other cases, like these "hobbit holidays"  we only get left with the celebration of the cycles of nature.
Of course, a lot depends on just how much Tolkien himself knew about the history of those holidays. 
I think Dagor has offered some very constructive ideas of which way to go from here, if we still do want to sort this all out. ----
 
I Have The Honor To Remain,
Most Respectfully Yours,
Ardo Whortleberry
"Middle-earth Is A State Of Mind"
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

A Post-Script To JesseBC ---
 
After all my yammering just now, I would like to simply add that your point about "Midsummer" and "Yule"
( in the stories ) ---
 
[  "...Using them to set the tone or even create an overarching theme of Light vs. Darkness
     ( a theme of both the solstice traditions and the Catholic catechism, which were both familiar to Tolkien )
seem like perfectly reasonable explanations to me..."   }
 
Well, they seem like perfectly reasonable explanations to me, as well!
In fact, I really do agree with you completely, there. ---
 
I don't think what I was trying to prove was that Tolkien had some kind of "hidden agenda" to "smuggle" Paganistic themes into his stories - but that perhaps ( even inadvertently ) - he did have the "habit" of transforming allusions to those paganistic elements into something more innocent, that's all.
I am beginning to wonder if this whole discussion should not be transferred back over to the "Mythic Origins" Thread, where it might really belong, anyway. ----
 
Once Again,
Respectfully Yours,
Ardo Whortleberry
 
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Afternoon TiggerBear ---
 
Concerning that "SPOILER" business ---
 
I phrased my words poorly. Actually, I was aware that, in medieval times, it was mainly entire bodies
( and other disgusting things ) that were usually hurled over the castle walls by the besiegers.
What I was trying to do was differentiate those chopped-off heads coming over the walls of Minas Tirith from the times in the stories that the Goblins and Orcs were getting their noggins knocked off...
What I should have said was something like:
"What Sauron's armies were doing at the Battle of Pellenor Fields was more SIMILAR to what the castle-besiegers used to do up through Medieval times" ---
 ( as opposed to the way the orcs were were always getting their heads chopped off right and left, which sounds something more like what the Ancient Celts were always doing to their enemies - and perhaps sometimes to their own tribespeople as well, at times ) ---
 And, in the case of the great battle, it seemed like they were removing the heads of the fallen after they had already been killed by other means - whereas, for instance, Gimli seemed like a One-Man Wrecking Crew at Helm's Deep -  and his favorite method of dispatching all those orcs was to seperate their heads from their bodies ---      Ardo
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JesseBC
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Not sure which source you're referring to, but it's got its holidays mixed up.

Samhain referred to the Celtic gourd harvest (the end of the harvest season) and the month we now call November.

The Celtic New Year thing was likely a myth perpetuated by modern neo-Pagans (for whom it is their New Year, but there are no early references to it as such).

All the harvest festivals are at least questionably associated with human sacrifice (which would include Samhain). Some scholars claim a stronger link than others.

May Day has roots in fertility festivals, but it's not Samhain. And neither of them occur at the solstices, which are Midsummer and Yule.

If those are the only two referenced in LOTR (I was far too young the first time I read the series to dwell on such things), then the Light vs. Darkness is the strongest running theme with the solstices. Which, as we've agreed, is also a strong running theme in LOTR.

I didn't mean to get your back up, but, if you've got a source claiming May Day is called Samhain and was the Celtic New Year...I'd chuck it and find a more reliable source.

The only people who celebrate Samhain in May are Wiccans in Australia and, since the Gaels lived in the northern hemisphere, the origins of the festival wouldn't have aligned with this reconstructionist quirk.





oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
To JesseBC ---
What I was trying to say was this:
Just because these "other" holidays were not normally associated with human sacrifice ( from what was the general understanding of these things ) does not necessarily mean that they were NOT associated with human sacrifice during those pagan, pre-Christian, pre-Roman times I was talking about.
I believe these "other" holidays could have been a lot more associated with those kind of rituals than people have realized.
As a case in point - ( if you read that article - I left the correct link to it in my "Addendum" ) ---
A holiday that just passed - May Day ( a perfectly innocent holiday nowadays - although it has long been known to have that history of "Fertility Rites" behind it ) - in the Celtic culture - May Day ( Samhain ) was the Celtic New Year - and apparently, just about the Number One Holiday ( for the Celts ) and ( quite possibly ) a time for a great deal of that "sacrificing" to be going on.
Inotherwords - yes, people were getting murdered on Samhain - and, yes, they were getting murdered BECAUSE it was Samhain...
My guess is that all of these "holidays" that were so closely tied to the seasons, the sun and the moon, the cycles of nature - there was quite possibly a great deal more of these "goings-on" that what used to be assumed - for instance, that it mainly only happened on days, say like Halloween -
and that includes "Midsummer" and "Yule" as far as I am concerned.
You see, I know you probably feel like I went off the deep end a little when I started prattling on before -
but I was a little annoyed when what you were saying before sounded to me like:
"Oh - you must be confused - you must be thinking of that OTHER holiday"
No. I WAS thinking about "Midsummer" and "Yule", you see. ---
My point was simply that there is a lot of very deep, dark, gruesome and bloody elements of that Ancient Celtic culture - which gets alluded to in some ways in the stories -
( such as in the orcs often getting their heads chopped off ) - but in other cases, like these "hobbit holidays" we only get left with the celebration of the cycles of nature.
Of course, a lot depends on just how much Tolkien himself knew about the history of those holidays.
I think Dagor has offered some very constructive ideas of which way to go from here, if we still do want to sort this all out. ----
I Have The Honor To Remain,
Most Respectfully Yours,
Ardo Whortleberry



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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

JesseBC ---
 
I apologize - it was not my "source" that was mixed up - it was me. I should have double-checked again before I sent in my posting. The "article" ( which seems to be excerpted from a college student's paper -
Graduate or Undergraduate, I don't know ) - was referring to BELTAIN not, Samhain - and mentions that Beltain is the "polar opposite of Samhain"  - but that same author seems to assert that Beltain was at least very likely to be be a major "Sacrificing" day - along with the "harvesting" days - at least, in line with her thesis.
 
The author of this "article" does tend to make some wild assertions, however - and I think it is all partly based on the latest modern-day "perception" of the way Celtic society was ( in its heyday ) - which tends to envision mainly the violent, bloodthirsty, "extreme" ( if you will ) aspects of that culture above everything else.
 
I have to confess, abashedly now - that I felt so sure of my own similar "perception" of that same Celtic culture - that I must have gone hunting for some "hard evidence" to prove my case, and to show that I knew what I was talking about. ( and  when I found this "article" - I said to myself: "Aha!" ) So - sorry about that. ---
 
I think I am on the right track with this "head-hunting" business, however - as I do feel certain that particular aspect of Celtic culture gets mentioned many times in Celtic Mythology and Folklore - and there is plenty of evidence for the Celtic predeliction for decapitation in real life history - but that is another matter, altogether....
 
I do tend to get a little carried away with everything sometimes --- Ardo
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Dagor
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

[ Edited ]
Curiouser and curiouser...

Live and learn, I guess. I had thought I'd be able to present a substantial precis of pagan English rites/ rituals, church establishments, holidays, creedos etc, but, apparently there is not all that much remaining of the pre-Christian religion of the Anglo-Saxons. We know much more about pre-Christian Aztec and Maya cults than we do about the early English. Frank Stenton's classic work "Anglo-Saxon England," does not even have a separate chapter on pagan A-S religion. He tucks a little information into the first three pages of chapter IV, "The Conversion of the English Peoples," and actually initiates this scanty material with the following caveat:

"The heathen background of Old English history is impenetrably vague. The names of the chief divinities of English worship have been preserved and a few specific practices have been recorded by historians anxious to condemn them. Writers concerned with the saints of the Conversion could not avoid an occasional reference to the temples, idols, and priests of heathenism, and the principal scientific work of the pre-Danish period -- the "De Temporum Ratione" of Bede -- records a few pieces of information about the chief festivals of the heathen year." (F. Stenton, A-S England," p. 96)

Well, I have a copy of Bede around here somewhere, so I'll see what I can find there.

Now, considering the paucity of legitimate evidence for Anglo-Saxon religion, I'm wondering if JRRT largely left out a discussion of Hobbit Religion simply because he had no real data base from A-S times upon which he could base a Shire cult?

Meanwhile, it had not occurred to me before this topic, just how much religious information may be found in calendars, and here, at least for the Shire, JRRT does give us very full information. The days of our week, and the hobbits', are all named for Nordic gods and goddesses, the months either carry god names or agricultural cycle events (or simple numeral names like 7th month, 8th month, 9th, 10th) that were given religious significance and assigned special celebration days. In this regard, to get an idea of what Third Age Hobbit (and Rohirric) religion may have contained, a look at the calendar of the Shire compared with its closest model -- the Anglo-Saxon calendar -- might be informative.

Material below is cited from page 209 "Companion to Beowulf," by Ruth Johnston Staver and gives the following equivalents from the Anglo-Saxon calendar that JRRT used when he composed his Hobbit version of the months:

Shire Name.......Anglo-Saxon Name........Meaning

Afteryule........Aefter Geola............Month after winter festival of Geol/ Yule.

Solmath..........Solmonath...............Sun Month or Month of "Cakes"

Rethe............Hrethmonath.............Month of Hrethe (perhaps a goddess)

Astron...........Eastermonath............Month of Eostre (goddess, not much known)

Thrimidge........Thrimilcemonath.........Month of three milkings of the cows per day

Forelithe........Aerra Litha.............Month before the summer solstice (Litha)

Afterlithe.......Aefterra Litha..........Month after summer solstice

Wedmath..........Weodmonath..............Weed month

Halimath.........Haligmonath.............Holy month (probably harvest festival)

Winterfilth*.....Winterfyllep............First full moon of winter

Blotmath.........Blotmonath.............Month for butchering extra livestock

Foreyule.........Aerra Geola.............Month before winter festival of Geol/ Yule

*Winter + filth, sounds like a messy time of the year, slushy-muddy, as October in England/ Shire can be. But "filth" is fylth in Old english, while the ending fyllep may have nothing to do with dirtiness, but may rather come from "fylled" meaning "fulness," or from "fyllan," to "fill-up," "complete," "satisfy."

Next posting, I'll try to list some of the A-S festivals that I hope to find in Bede, and then try to correlate these with JRRT's Hobbit feasts/ celebrations.

Message Edited by Dagor on 05-07-2008 12:32 PM
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Morning, Dagor ---
 
Thanks for your diligent reasearch!
 
I couldn't help noticing that JRRT changed "Eastermonath" into "Astron" ---
This sounds like a case of JRRT meticulously combing through his creation to remove anything that might be construed to have religious overtones. ---
 ( Or at least - "Post - Christianity" overtones ) ---
( And "Easter" definitely has religious - specifically Christian overtones - in spite of its being originally the name of an Anglo-Saxon Goddess )...
Which is what Tolkien had said he had decided to do ( as far as weeding out references to any specific religion in the stories ) - with all that business about "leaving out" any churches or temples and such like in Middle-earth, and all that talk about there being no need for them - as Middle-earth already had its own
"Natural Theology" ---
( I'm not sure if any of us has been able to explain what JRRT might have meant exactly by that, either -
I think it was lorien who first posed the question - "Just what exactly IS a "Natural Theology"?" ) ---
 
I have a feeling that your further research may not reveal anything more, however, as to what the hobbit's possible "religion", per-se, might have been - ( as it still sounds as though they had "none"! )
other than to turn up holidays and festivities that were closely tied to the cycles of nature and the seasons -
 
I think maybe, with the  days of the week retaining the same names as ours, that all started by usage in "The Hobbit" ) - and was continued on into  LOTR ---
I wonder, however, if JRRT might have considered "inventing" some "brand-new" names for the days of the week, as well ( and names that were NOT tied to Norse Gods and Goddesses )
- but then probably decided it would be too confusing to the readers to have to be "translating" in their heads from the familiar usage into "Shire Days" or even "Elvish Days" or "Numenorian Days" all the time  ?  You notice, throughout the stories - the narrator only refers to the common and readily understood names for the months of the year - ( May, October, etcetera ) - and not even to the "Shire Calendar" names of months...
 
It might be interesting to uncover if the hobbits had any holidays that "echoed" important holidays among the Elves or the Numenorians - if any such holidays are known to exist -as it does almost seem like those
"cultures" had some forms of "religion" ( or, at least, SOMETHING that we might tend to think of more in terms of being a religion - than the hobbits had themselves ) ---
 
But please, don't let me burden you with any more "extra homework" other than the research that you are already engaged in - like I said - you are doing a fine job already - with very informative results! 
 
Ardo
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Morning ---
 
I'd like to go in a different direction, for just a second - this will involve another jaunt down memory lane for me - I hope you won't mind going along with me. I'll try not to take too long. My Grandmother came ( as a very young woman ) from the rural north of France ( a refugee during WWI ) - an intensely Roman Catholic person - she met my Grandfather in California - he had come over from Iowa, also from a solid Catholic background.
Of their sons and daughters - some adhered fervently to the faith - some rebelled, some took it more or less casually.
One of my uncles was one of the fervent adherants. Once lived at the Seminary, and considered becoming a Priest - although, in the end, realized he wasn't cut out for it. Always went to Mass, very involved in Church groups, etcetera. Says he has had his doubts and his struggles with his faith - but he's never strayed too far, and he never will.
Anyway, when I was much younger, and in the first throes of my "Tolkienitis" - I wanted to share my enthusiasm  and excitement with him - but when I tried to do this - he said something like:
"Oh - you mean that Tolkien nonsense?"
I was pretty crushed at the time.
I have a feeling my uncle might have been lumping Tolkien fanatics ( like me ) in the same group as goofy hippie airheads, or practicing pagans, or misguided Zen Buddhists or some other semi-idolatrous
unorthodox cult phenomenom.
Of course, some people just can't stand Fantasy in general - maybe that was it ---
But my uncle would be fascinated by the Holy Grail Legend, or something similar ---
Anyway, a while after I saw that book for the first time ( "Sanctifying Myth" ) { and we discussed it here at the Book Club }  the thought has crossed my mind: "If I could get my uncle to read this book - maybe there would finally be a way to 'turn him on' to Tolkien!" ---
I've been thinking, too - although I would still totally disagree with something that says:
"Lembas REPRESENTS the Eucharist, no doubt about it" -
I could almost see where it could be said:
"Lembas could be said to be EVOCATIVE of the Eucharist"...
 
Thank You All, and Good Night,
Ardo Whortleberry
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Ardo Whortleberry
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JesseBC
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Ah, got it! Yeah...Beltane and Samhain are on opposites poles, April/May and October/November respectively (in the northern hemisphere anyway).

I've never read of any associations with the fertility festivals and human sacrifice (though some with animals, such as slaughtering the first-born lamb, which may have pre-dated the Jewish Passover ritual).

But, as Dagor suggests, even scholars who immerse themselves in this stuff disagree, so we're not likely to come to any definitive conclusions.

If nothing else though, I think the Light vs. Darkness connection is interesting and it probably never would have occurred to me if we hadn't started talking about this stuff. LOTR certainly has these grandiose mythic themes whether any of us can specifically agree as to whether or not those ought to be defined as "religious" or what that might mean.

I guess the upshot for me is, however much a thread may seem to wander, I find it can still provide insight into the text I'm reading.





oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
JesseBC ---
I apologize - it was not my "source" that was mixed up - it was me. I should have double-checked again before I sent in my posting. The "article" ( which seems to be excerpted from a college student's paper -
Graduate or Undergraduate, I don't know ) - was referring to BELTAIN not, Samhain - and mentions that Beltain is the "polar opposite of Samhain" - but that same author seems to assert that Beltain was at least very likely to be be a major "Sacrificing" day - along with the "harvesting" days - at least, in line with her thesis.
The author of this "article" does tend to make some wild assertions, however - and I think it is all partly based on the latest modern-day "perception" of the way Celtic society was ( in its heyday ) - which tends to envision mainly the violent, bloodthirsty, "extreme" ( if you will ) aspects of that culture above everything else.
I have to confess, abashedly now - that I felt so sure of my own similar "perception" of that same Celtic culture - that I must have gone hunting for some "hard evidence" to prove my case, and to show that I knew what I was talking about. ( and when I found this "article" - I said to myself: "Aha!" ) So - sorry about that. ---
I think I am on the right track with this "head-hunting" business, however - as I do feel certain that particular aspect of Celtic culture gets mentioned many times in Celtic Mythology and Folklore - and there is plenty of evidence for the Celtic predeliction for decapitation in real life history - but that is another matter, altogether....
I do tend to get a little carried away with everything sometimes --- Ardo



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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

I'm not trying to win any arguments here - or score any points - but here is an excerpt from that article/essay I  had been perusing before -( and wherein I had stumbled across what I thought at the time was pretty convincing evidence that, at one time, "May Day" COULD have been associated with human sacrifice ) ---
 
[   "...Beltain was another important festival and ceremony to the Celts just as 'Samhain'.....it marked the beginning of summer, or May 1, another time of potential danger and suffering if the crops failed during the season. All rituals and ceremonies were in favor to the ancient god Belenos, who was also known as the god of fire. I'm sure it must have to do with the blazing sun during the summer time....A striking feature of the events that took place during the Beltain festival was that of the bon-fires that were set ablaze in honor of Belenos usually done on hilltops for all to witness. According to Caesar in one of his many descriptions of Celtic practices, was that of the sacrifice of both human and animals in a huge bonfire, in which an enormous wickerwork was filled with with animals and humans and set on fire. It is a probability that he witnessed the ritual and offering of sacrifice to Belenos, where the worshippers were hoping for the insured success of crops and herds so the population could prosper...." ]
 
I realize the author of this essay makes some conjectures and assumptions ( it would really help to know if Julius Caesar dated his "report ") - but this does paint a picture ( and that is what the author of the essay seems to be best at: "painting pictures" - evoking imaginative images - she probably would make a good "Historical Fiction" writer - and I have no idea just how correct or incorrect her conjectures are - as I am not one of those experts who have immersed themselves in this particular field of study ) of a May Day celebration that does not exactly consist of only May Poles, dances, and flower garlands - or even simply only the sacrifice of animals and not humans. Anyway, you can see where I had felt I had found evidence of yet another pagan holiday that has innocent associations nowadays - but in "prehistoric times" might have had a much darker undertone. --- 
"Middle-earth Is A State Of Mind"
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Ardo Whortleberry
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Something very odd just happened ( again - this happened before ) - a "winking smiley face" appeared
( in a singularly appropriate spot, I might add ) in my last posting - and I never put it there, I swear to God.
( very odd, very strange ) ---
 
Anyway, this is sort of a follow-up to my last letter. I just want to say that I realize sometimes I think I've gotten these "flashes of insight" and continue to bend over backwards and go out on a limb and off on a tangent to prove my thesis - but I think I may have started off on this whole "pagan" kick by simply overstating an idea which is really quite simple and ( I think ) obvious, and actually pretty much goes without saying.
That is ---
Some of Tolkien's "sources" - including those Icelandic Sagas, those Norse Myths and those Celtic Myths - were rooted in a real Pagan tradition. He might have realized that could have tended to give the stories a
"Pagan-ish" flavor. But  then JRRT tried to to remove that "flavor",  in, perhaps, a similar way to the way he tried to remove any references or allusions to "Worship" and "Religion" from the stories --- He tried to take that "Paganish"  ingredient "Out of the Mix" in the stories, inotherwords.  
 
Ardo Whortleberry
"Middle-earth Is A State Of Mind"
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Ardo Whortleberry
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JesseBC
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Interesting...that's the first time I've ever heard of the "wicker man" being linked to Beltane. Usually I've read of it in reference to the start of the harvest season, with debate as to whether it was used in a ritual of regicide, to sacrifice criminals in an early form of capital punishment, or whether it was merely symbolic of a sacrifice.

Bonfires are big at Beltane and especially at Midsummer. And some contemporary groups burn a "wicker man" in the spring or summer (Green Man in the Nevada desert is one of the more famous ones). But I don't think they generally claim any sort of accurate historical reconstruction for this.

I'm usually skeptical when reconstructionists try to make too much of the symbolic meaning of these rituals since just determining the fact of them is difficult enough, let alone trying to determine what they might have meant.

But there is a sort of logic to the idea of killing at the time of harvest rather than the time of planting. Kill too much in the spring and it would interfere with the food supply. While at the point of harvest, the herds and fields would be culled anyway for winter food.

BTW, those winky-faces...those show up all the time when you use closed parentheses. I think something's goofy with the site's code. It happens all the time. Where, if you just type an emoticon, it won't do that -- see? :-)






oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
I'm not trying to win any arguments here - or score any points - but here is an excerpt from that article/essay I had been perusing before -( and wherein I had stumbled across what I thought at the time was pretty convincing evidence that, at one time, "May Day" COULD have been associated with human sacrifice ) ---
[ "...Beltain was another important festival and ceremony to the Celts just as 'Samhain'.....it marked the beginning of summer, or May 1, another time of potential danger and suffering if the crops failed during the season. All rituals and ceremonies were in favor to the ancient god Belenos, who was also known as the god of fire. I'm sure it must have to do with the blazing sun during the summer time....A striking feature of the events that took place during the Beltain festival was that of the bon-fires that were set ablaze in honor of Belenos usually done on hilltops for all to witness. According to Caesar in one of his many descriptions of Celtic practices, was that of the sacrifice of both human and animals in a huge bonfire, in which an enormous wickerwork was filled with with animals and humans and set on fire. It is a probability that he witnessed the ritual and offering of sacrifice to Belenos, where the worshippers were hoping for the insured success of crops and herds so the population could prosper...." ]
I realize the author of this essay makes some conjectures and assumptions ( it would really help to know if Julius Caesar dated his "report ") - but this does paint a picture ( and that is what the author of the essay seems to be best at: "painting pictures" - evoking imaginative images - she probably would make a good "Historical Fiction" writer - and I have no idea just how correct or incorrect her conjectures are - as I am not one of those experts who have immersed themselves in this particular field of study ) of a May Day celebration that does not exactly consist of only May Poles, dances, and flower garlands - or even simply only the sacrifice of animals and not humans. Anyway, you can see where I had felt I had found evidence of yet another pagan holiday that has innocent associations nowadays - but in "prehistoric times" might have had a much darker undertone. ---



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lorien
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

BTW, those winky-faces...those show up all the time when you use closed parentheses. I think something's goofy with the site's code. It happens all the time. Where, if you just type an emoticon, it won't do that -- see? :-)
--------------------------------------------

Actually I think this happens when a right parenthesis is used with a quote and then converted to HTML like "hi") and the right parenthesis is lost as well. Just leave a space after the quote marks and it will not happen --- "hi" )

If you actually want the emoticon you have to put the semicolon and the right parenthesis (for a wink) and the colon and the right parenthesis (for a smile)together with no spaces but it won't take a "nose".
:smileywink: :smileyhappy:

To see what it looks like try a reply to my statement and then "Quote Post" it and you will see the code. You can then just "cancel the post" after looking at it.
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TiggerBear
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Ah the wicker man.
Yes a spring ceremony but on Imbolc or the spring equinox. Not Beltane.
Contents, convicted criminals and prisoners of war.

Sacrifice at spring was a winter king/summer king ritual. Every fall the winter king battles and defeats the summer king, and every spring the summer king wins.
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oldBPLstackdenizen
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Good Afternoon Everybody  ---
 
Thanks, JesseBC & lorien, for explaining the Mystery Of The Winking Smiley Faces to me!
It's good to know there is not the hand of some strange power behind their appearances! 
It seems like the "application" of these "stick-on smiley faces" does sometimes have some wrinkles in the works. On one occasion, recently, I had "plugged-in" the laughing smiley guy, but when I went to review my post --- there was the little sad looking face in its place. I wound up deleting that attempt, in the end....  Ardo 
"Middle-earth Is A State Of Mind"
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Ardo Whortleberry
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JesseBC
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

I know there's legions of room for speculation with regards to ancient rituals, but...where on earth are you guys getting some of this stuff?!

It wouldn't make any sense for the various Light vs. Darkness battle-myths to occur in the spring and fall when the light starts noticeably changing at the solstices -- which happen in the middle of June and December.

Or Midsummer and Yule, the two holidays mentioned in LOTR. I thought that was the one thing we'd all actually agreed about...

Imbolc, which became the Catholic feast day of Candlemas, happens in February. The spring equinox occurs in late March.





TiggerBear wrote:
Ah the wicker man.
Yes a spring ceremony but on Imbolc or the spring equinox. Not Beltane.
Contents, convicted criminals and prisoners of war.

Sacrifice at spring was a winter king/summer king ritual. Every fall the winter king battles and defeats the summer king, and every spring the summer king wins.


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TiggerBear
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

JesseBC
Well Imbolc, was a common time for sacrifice. And well dugh, spring start in march.(chuckle)

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I know there's legions of room for speculation with regards to ancient rituals, but...where on earth are you guys getting some of this stuff?!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Never have I speculated. Raised on Winter King/Summer king myths. Try looking at the pre-roman Welsh myths.

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It wouldn't make any sense for the various Light vs. Darkness battle-myths to occur in the spring and fall when the light starts noticeably changing at the solstices -- which happen in the middle of June and December.
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Solstices were celebrated as the hight of each kings reign. Does it not make since to you that on the longest day of summer, the summer king would have the most influence, and vise versa? Why does it not make since to you, that the battles occurred on the day each side was balanced? Why wouldn't ancient society not have fear that if the proper god wasn't supported that the seasons might not change?
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TiggerBear
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Re: Religion in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Besides this all spun off a a conversation about blood sacrifice on Beltane, and various Celtic holidays.